DEAR ABBY: My fraternal twin, "Marla," was always difficult. When we were kids she was physically and emotionally abusive. She stopped hitting me only after I outgrew her in high school, but she continues to try to control me.
When I started dating my wife, "Gloria," Marla would tell me Gloria wasn't good enough for me. At first, it gave me serious doubts about the woman who is the love of my life. We're now expecting our first child -- a daughter -- and Marla has been offering parenting advice that goes against what Gloria and I feel about child-rearing. When I politely decline her advice, Marla accuses me of being "selfish" for not appreciating it.
A parenting book was delivered anonymously to our home. It took me a few days to remember that Marla had mentioned it. Five days later she sent me an angry email because I hadn't thanked her for it.
Spats like this usually result in our not speaking for months. I harbor no ill will toward my sister and often don't know why we're fighting. She seems to thrive on the drama she creates with these artificial rifts.
I want my daughter exposed to healthy adult relationships, not abusive ones. How do I tell my twin I love her, but she must stop trying to control me and create conflict where none exists? I don't want to have to cut her out of my life. -- SOON-TO-BE-DAD
DEAR SOON-TO-BE-DAD: The patterns of a lifetime won't change without work on both your parts. Tell your twin that if she wants to be a part of your life -- and your daughter's -- some radical changes will be necessary. Offer to join her in family therapy. If she agrees, recognize that change won't be easy for her. If she refuses, do what you must to protect your child from her controlling and manipulative behavior.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 25-year-old man. I have been in a two-year relationship with the most beautiful woman I have ever met. "Amanda" is 23, and she has just told me she plans on joining the Navy.
I respect her decision and courage to better her life and future career. However, my feelings are deeply hurt. I don't understand how, after all this time, she could change course and put our relationship on the back burner.
Amanda says she wants us to stay together and promises that everything will be all right. I love her with all my heart. Do you think after four years in the Navy our love will be as strong? At our age, is it worth keeping ourselves exclusive to each other? -- IN SHOCK IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR IN SHOCK: I wish you had mentioned why Amanda has decided to join the military. Could it be she's doing it because, in return for her service, they will pay for her education? If that's the case, then respect her decision and her determination to better her life.
Whether your romance can weather the separation her service in the Navy will require depends, frankly, on how much each of you has invested in it. Other couples have managed. My advice is to take it day by day and you'll have your answer.
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